The 5-Second Newborn Check All Parents Should Do: A Follow-Up

25 Sep

I had debated whether or not I wanted to share my experience of dealing with a tongue and lip-tied baby and the breastfeeding issues my daughter and I dealt with, but I am so glad I did!  I want to thank all of you that have commented, emailed me and shared my blog post with others.  I have received such positive responses and some great information from so many of you!

After receiving some information and links from others out there that have also had experience with tongue/lip-ties or have researched this topic, I wanted to post a follow-up to pass along that information.  I still don’t have any solid answers as to what exactly causes tongue and lip-ties, I’m not sure anyone really knows the exact cause, but I want to share the information I have received so those of you interested in researching more on this issue can have some avenues to follow.  I also wanted to share that there is a Tongue Tied Babies Support Group (TTBSG) page on Facebook where you can get more information on this issue and connect with other parents going through this experience.  The group also has a list of doctors throughout the US, Canada and various other countries that evaluate and correct tongue and lip-ties.  I will provide the link below!

A commenter on my original post directed me to a site that discusses the possible genetics of tongue-ties and other midline defects.  The site is MTHFR.net by Dr. Ben Lynch.  The MTHFR gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.  This is where the folic acid theory I mentioned in my previous post comes in to play.  In very layman’s terms, my understanding is that this enzyme converts the folic acid or folate we consume into the useable form in our body, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).  This process is called methylation because we need the enzyme to turn the folic acid or folate into a methyl form for our body to use.  Dr. Lynch claims that people that have a MTHFR gene defect will have a decreased methylation ability and thus will receive a much reduced benefit from taking folic acid (which is in the vast majority of vitamin supplements) since they cannot fully methylate it and instead must look for a supplement that has the useable/methylated form, 5-MTHF, or it may be listed as L-5-methylfolate.  (Actually, Dr. Lynch recommends that nobody take folic acid, but folate instead.  He discusses this in an interview I mention below.)  So a pregnant woman with this gene defect and poor methylation abilities who is simply told to take a standard prenatal vitamin may end up being deficient in the needed vitamin B9 which could potentially lead to defects in her baby.

You can listen to an interview with Dr. Lynch to get some foundational information on the MTHFR gene mutation, methylation and his supplementation recommendations here.  I will note that if you listen to the interview, Dr. Lynch seems to have the common misconception that people who eat paleo only eat meat.  He makes a comment about obtaining folate from leafy greens and how someone following a paleo diet may not be getting folate from vegetables.  Uh…Dr. Lynch, people who eat paleo still eat vegetables, probably in greater quantities than most of the population!  And folate is also found in red meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, which anyone eating paleo eats these foods daily.  Oh, and since I always seem to bring up liver…liver is the #1 superfood when it comes to folate!  Ok, stepping off soapbox now…

You can also read Dr. Lynch’s take on tongue-ties and MTHFR, The Intersection of Tongue Tie and MTHFR.  However, after reading this article, I still feel I was pretty good at following his recommended supplementation protocol before and during my pregnancy, yet still ended up with a tongue & lip-tied child.  He does mention avoiding potatoes and sweet potatoes for a specific time period, but I ate these…but really?!  Interestingly enough, while I was beginning to read through this information, I received an email notification from my favorite health researcher, Chris Kresser, that his latest podcast was on the topic of methylation.  In that podcast, he explains how someone that does not methylate properly will also have hindered detoxification abilities, so they are prone to toxin overload (from all the toxins we are exposed to in our world today) in the body and this can affect gene expression and contribute to the development of the MTHFR-related defects.  You can listen to that podcast here.

Reading and listening to this information can get very overwhelming very fast!  It’s important to realize that the research and information on MTHFR is in its infancy.  So what are we to do to prevent tongue/lip-ties and the laundry list of other conditions Dr. Lynch reports are linked to MTHFR in our children?  #1…don’t stress about it!  Supplement with methylated forms of folate and B12, eat a nutrient-dense diet (paleo, cough, cough), manage stress, move your body, sleep well.  Just because you have a MTHFR gene mutation does not necessarily mean you or your offspring will have any of the associated defects.  Appropriate lifestyle factors can affect whether or not that gene is activated or not.

If you begin researching this information and want to find out if you have a MTHFR gene mutation, there is at at-home test kit you can purchase for $99 at 23andme.com.  MTHFR gene mutations are not only linked to tongue-ties; per Dr. Lynch, there are numerous conditions associated with MTHFR mutations including miscarriages, autism, ADHD, Down’s Syndrome, depression, congenital heart defects, and cancer, just to name a few.  The list has 64 listed conditions.  Check out his full (and still growing) list here.

I have not purchased the home test-kit to test my daughter to see if she has the MTHFR gene mutation to possibly explain the tongue and lip-tie she was born with.  I was taking a supplement pre-pregnancy and during my pregnancy that had the recommended 5-MTHF, not folic acid.  But maybe I wasn’t taking enough?  Dr. Lynch also recommends B6 and methyl forms of B12, which the B-complex supplement I took also contained, but again, maybe I wasn’t taking enough?  Or maybe it was some environmental factor that we may not ever be able to determine.  My husband and I may look more into this research or we may consider taking the genetic test to determine if one or both of us have this mutated gene that we could pass on if we decide to have a second child in the future.

If you think your baby may have a tongue-tie/lip-tie that is causing problems with breastfeeding and you are looking for a doctor close to you to have your child evaluated and treated if needed, here is a link to the provider list from the Tongue Tied Babies Support Group.  This list includes providers across the US, Canada, Australia, England, and Israel.

Tongue Tied Babies Support Group Provider List

If your child was treated by a doctor that is not on this list, feel free to list them and the city/state/country where they practice in the comment section and I will add them to this post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 5-Second Newborn Check All Parents Should Do

22 Aug

BW WebFileAfter a bit of a hiatus, I am happy to report that our baby girl was born happy and healthy on May 22, 2014.  She is now 3 months old and has been a dream baby!  She eats well, has slept great from day one and I can already tell she is very determined to be up and mobile as soon as possible; she is so physically strong!  But I’d expect nothing less from our paleo baby.  ;)

I had planned on writing about today’s topic for a while, but I had no idea that by the time I got around to it I would be writing it with firsthand experience.  So unlike my other posts, which are highly informative, this post will be a bit more personal.  But after my experience, I am so passionate about this issue and want to help get this information to all soon-to-be and new parents because I think it is an issue that often goes undiagnosed.  Today’s topic is about a simple check that all new parents should be performing on their newborns, after counting those ten fingers and ten toes, of course.

My daughter's tongue-tie.

My daughter’s tongue-tie.

When our daughter was born, I knew I was going to check whether or not she had a tongue-tie and/or lip-tie.  Lucky for me, the nurse that was at my side when my daughter was born, and who was going to help with initial breastfeeding, immediately began looking in my daughter’s mouth and noted what she thought was a possible tongue-tie.  I clearly saw the short frenum attachment (tissue attachment) on the underside of her tongue.  The nurse basically told me that her tongue-tie may or may not be an issue, but to see how breastfeeding goes.  I wasn’t given any further information from the nurse and the lactation consultant that visited me the next morning did not discuss it either.  Thankfully, I had read about tongue-ties and their effect on breastfeeding extensively while I was pregnant.

We were released from the hospital just over 24 hours after our daughter was born because I was feeling great, baby was healthy and she was eating like a champ.  I was a new mom and didn’t know what breastfeeding was supposed to feel like.  Everything you read says that it will likely be a bit uncomfortable or painful at first, but that by two weeks in any discomfort should subside.  During those initial weeks, breastfeeding was uncomfortable or mildly painful, but I wouldn’t describe it as excruciating (but I do have a high pain tolerance).  It wasn’t until a few days after the two week mark that things went drastically downhill.  Breastfeeding never got what I would describe as comfortable, but now I was suddenly experiencing much more painful breastfeeding due to cracks and sores that were not healing and getting worse.  I also started experiencing an intermittent burning sensation in my nipples that was pretty painful as well; sometimes it literally felt like my nipples were on fire!  I had seen a lactation consultant and knew that latching was not the issue here, and if you do any Googling on “burning nipples and breastfeeding” what will turn up is that it is a thrush/yeast infection.  However, when I read all the symptoms of thrush that you may notice with yourself and with your baby it just didn’t seem to be what was going on.  I didn’t have an answer for the burning sensations, but I was sure the tongue-tie was the culprit behind the painful breastfeeding and the cracks/sores that were not healing since she was not able to get her tongue extended enough under the breast and nipple to perform a milking action and breastfeed properly.  Instead of being able to “milk” the breast she was gumming me and using a lot of suction to stay on the breast since she could not latch deeply enough.  OUCH!

lip tie

My daughter’s maxillary lip-tie.

After doing a bit more research online, I found that it was an ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat doctor) that I’d want to see to evaluate and correct my daughter’s possible tongue-tie.  I also looked at the tissue attachment under her upper lip right above where her future two front teeth will be.  This area concerned me as well because the frenum here attached down at the bottom of the gums.  If left untreated this would likely cause a space between her two front teeth and could increase the risk of decay on her upper front teeth because this area could trap food and saliva may not be able to access the area sufficiently to clear food from the area and remineralize the teeth.  The tongue-tie was already causing issues with breastfeeding, but if left untreated it could also potentially cause speech issues in the future.

I quickly called the ENT clinic in my area and made an appointment for my daughter to be evaluated…but they didn’t have any openings for a week!  UGH!  But I sucked it up…and basically lived on Tylenol or Advil to get through it!  When we saw the doctor, he immediately noted the restrictive frenum attachment under her tongue, but he did not think the upper lip-tie was an issue.  I was shocked and disagreed, but didn’t say anything and just figured I’d have it re-evaluated when she got a little older.  I was mostly concerned with the tongue-tie/breastfeeding issues right now.  He applied some numbing gel to the underside of her tongue (which made her fussy) and with a scalpel released the tie.  It literally took less than 3 seconds.  My daughter was just over 3 weeks at the time and the good part about having this procedure done before 6 weeks is that the tissue is so thin and has not yet developed nerve endings in this area, so there is little to no discomfort for baby, minimal bleeding and no need for anesthetic (other than some topical numbing gel) or stitches.  The doctor left the room so I could nurse my daughter to soothe her and to see if there was any improvement.  I didn’t notice much, but figured it was very early and she would need time to relearn to nurse properly.  With no further instructions we left the office.

For the next two days I scoured the internet reading other mothers’ experiences with tongue-tie revisions.  I wanted to know how long it would be before nursing would be comfortable.  During my reading I came across a mother’s story of how she travelled from Texas to Portland, Oregon (close to my neck of the woods!) to see an ENT that specialized in this arena and have her baby treated.  I quickly Googled this doctor and was thrilled with what I found!

While I was pregnant, I had become aware of the breastfeeding issues that can arise with tongue-ties by reading Heather Dessinger’s story on her very popular blog, Mommypotamus.  I was aware that the leading doctor in the country on the issue of infant tongue/lip-ties and breastfeeding was Dr. Lawrence Kotlow.  I read the stories of numerous mothers online that had their babies treated by Dr. Kotlow, who uses a laser to correct tongue and lip-ties (much preferred over a scalpel or surgical scissors due to less tissue trauma which means less bleeding and faster healing times).  However, I am in Washington…and Dr. Kotlow is in New York.

After discovering the reference to a Portland doctor that did laser tongue/lip-tie corrections and Googling him, I found a wealth of information on his website about breastfeeding and saw that he made references to Dr. Kotlow’s work.  I wished I had found this doctor a week before!  After reading the information on Dr. Bobak (Bobby) Ghaheri’s website, I saw that he included an email address where he stated you could send him questions and pictures for advice.  I immediately emailed him giving him a little background and telling him that I had already had my daughter’s tongue-tie corrected two days prior, but I was concerned about her upper lip-tie and sent him a picture.  I told him I did not expect a diagnosis via email, but if it looked concerning to him I would schedule an office visit for an exam.  It was past office hours so I really wasn’t expecting a fast response, but he responded that same evening!  He told me the upper lip-tie definitely looked concerning.  He then also informed me that nearly every infant he has seen that had already had their tongue-tie treated by a previous ENT only had half the job done; that ENTs will snip that visible frenum tissue (referred to as an anterior tongue-tie) but that in his experience there is always a posterior tongue-tie behind it, embedded in the tissue and rarely visible unless you know how to check for it.  He stated most ENT’s are not even aware of what a posterior tongue-tie is, let alone know how to look for it.  If this posterior tongue-tie is left behind, breastfeeding likely will not improve.

After corresponding with Dr. Ghaheri I knew I wanted him to evaluate my daughter.  I contacted his office the next morning.  After some discussion with his receptionist, and informing her that I had been in email correspondence with Dr. Ghaheri, she stated that his next opening was two weeks out but since I had already been talking with him she would ask him if I could get in sooner and call me back.  I wasn’t expecting much, but she called a couple hours later and offered me an appointment for the very next day!  I took it!

I’ve heard some theories behind the potential causes of tongue and lip-ties.  Everything from too many ultrasounds during pregnancy to a mention of folic acid (read more about that here), which is the synthetic form of Vitamin B9.  Folic acid is found in most prenatal vitamins and recommended for all pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in their babies.  I knew neither of these could be the case.  I only had two ultrasounds during my pregnancy and the first one was not until 20 weeks.  The oral tissues were already developing by that point.  I also was not taking folic acid; I was taking a B-complex supplement with folate, the natural form of B9.

My mother also attended our appointment with Dr. Ghaheri the next morning.  After our introductions he promptly turned to my mother and asked her how I breastfed as a baby.  My mother replied that nursing was easy and she had none of the problems I was experiencing.  Dr. Ghaheri smiled and said, “Ok, looks like we’ll blame Dad.”  His belief is that tongue/lip-ties are genetic, which I think is more likely.  After discussing this experience with my sister-in-law, she informed me that she was told her daughter had a tongue-tie as an infant (but it was not severe enough to cause any breastfeeding issues) and to monitor her speech when she began to talk.  She also told me about several members of their family that had speech issues and underwent speech therapy.  She now wonders if it was due to undiagnosed tongue-ties.

My daughter's blanched lips and upper lip blister.

My daughter’s blanched lips and upper lip blister.

Dr. Ghaheri discussed my physical symptoms with me: the painful breastfeeding, the cracks/sores that would not heal and the compressed, “lipstick” shaped appearance of the nipple after the baby feeds.  Oh, and those burning sensations?  Dr. Ghaheri explained that it was not thrush (as is often misdiagnosed when tongue-tie is the real issue), but vasospasms due to nipple trauma and that after the ties are corrected and baby is able to latch correctly (ending the trauma), those will go away with time as mom heals.  Before even looking in my daughter’s mouth, he pointed out the white/blanched color of her lips and the bulbous, blister-like looking bump in the middle of her upper lip, both classic signs of a baby with a tongue-tie that cannot latch properly and therefore uses a lot of lip force and suction to stay on the breast.  He examined under her tongue and stated that the anterior tongue-tie had been corrected, but showed me that the posterior tie still remained which was keeping the central part of her tongue inhibited from rising up and performing a milking action during nursing.  When he looked at the upper lip-tie he was shocked to hear the previous ENT thought it was fine!  Dr. Ghaheri explained that not only would it lead to the dental issues I was concerned with but that it was also keeping her upper lip from flanging out over the top of the breast during nursing.  That was the cause of that blister on her upper lip.  I felt so relieved to have found someone that fully understood this issue!  Dr. Ghaheri informed me that the relationship between tongue/lip-ties and breastfeeding is never discussed during their education; Dr. Ghaheri took it upon himself to learn about this after his wife experienced these same issues with their two daughters who were also born with tongue and lip-ties.  I can tell that Dr. Ghaheri, after experiencing this issue within his own family, has a lot of compassion for breastfeeding mothers and I’m sure that’s why he squeezed us into his schedule so quickly.

Dr. Ghaheri applied some topical numbing cream and took my daughter into another room for her quick 30-second laser procedure to correct both ties and brought her right back to me.  She was completely calm and quiet when he brought her back into the room and she had minimal bleeding.  She only began to cry when she laid her eyes on me and realized she was being held by someone else in a strange place.  He told us to stay as long as we wanted so I could breastfeed her and soothe her.  Ten minutes later, he came back to check on us and asked me how breastfeeding felt.  This time I was amazed!  I told him it was the first time I had ever felt her use her tongue!  She only used it a short time before she reverted back to her old way of nursing, but this was because her tongue needed time to build up the strength and stamina needed to nurse the entire feeding time.  Dr. Ghaheri had me schedule a follow-up appointment for the following week so he could check on her healing and our progress.  He also sent us home with detailed exercises/stretches we were to perform on her to prevent the ties from healing back together and to keep any scar tissue that developed elastic rather than stiff which could hinder her tongue’s full range of movement.  Everyday, nursing got better and better.  It only took about a week or so for my daughter’s tongue to strengthen enough to last during feedings.  I literally was in awe every single time I fed her saying to myself, “So THIS is what breastfeeding is supposed to feel like?!”  No pain at all!  I could finally enjoy this time with my little one.

After the revision, Dr. Ghaheri referred me to lactation consultant, Bryna Sampey, IBCLC who understands this issue fully.  She not only worked with me and my daughter on latching, but also gave us exercises we could do to speed up the process of strengthening my daughter’s tongue so breastfeeding would become comfortable even sooner.  Her wealth of knowledge is unsurpassed!  Bryna then referred me to Karen Asbury LMP, LMT for a couple sessions of craniosacral therapy for my daughter.  Many chiropractors are trained in craniosacral therapy as well.  The chiropractor I saw during my pregnancy, Dr. Janell Chandler of Nexus Chiropractic, also specializes in pediatric chiropractic and is trained in craniosacral therapy.  I had Dr. Chandler see my daughter for several visits as well.  Craniosacral therapy is a form of therapeutic touch bodywork that is very gentle.   This therapy can be very beneficial for an infant that has undergone a tongue-tie revision because babies with tongue-ties tend to also have very high arching palates.  While in the womb, babies begin practicing sucking and swallowing in preparation for breastfeeding.  If a baby is tongue-tied and their tongue cannot reach their palate, their palate does not receive the needed mechanical stimulation I discussed in a previous post to help create a wider, lower palate.  This high arching palate is one of the reasons a mother will often see a compressed, “lipstick” shaped nipple after her baby feeds.  I’ve discussed on this blog the nutrition needed to help create a wide palate here and here, along with the mechanical stimulation needed to create a wide palate here and here, to give children the best odds at straight teeth.  I provided my daughter with the needed nutrition during my pregnancy and now it was even more important that I discovered the tongue-tie, had it corrected and continued to breastfeed to give her palate the much needed mechanical stimulation to widen and flatten it out a bit.  Craniosacral therapy can help to move the palatal bones a bit quicker to again make breastfeeding more comfortable sooner.  It can also help to release tension in a baby’s jaw and neck musculature that will often be tight due to how hard they had to work before to get milk while nursing.  It only took a handful of craniosacral therapy sessions and a few weeks of breastfeeding to move my daughter’s palate into a more favorable shape; my nipples no longer come out compressed and clamped after she feeds.  This also means no more trauma and the vasospasms have completely disappeared.  Not only has breastfeeding become comfortable and pain-free for me, but it is now much easier for my daughter to get milk as well.  She used to have to nurse for 45 minutes to an hour to be able to get enough milk, leaving her exhausted; after having her ties corrected she only needs 15 minutes, leaving her time to play and explore!

On the way to our appointment with Dr. Ghaheri, my mother asked me how common was this whole tongue-tie/breastfeeding issue.  I told her I had read differing reports.  Some said 4% of babies are born with ties, some said 10%.  I told her I don’t think we really know because I think ties go highly undiagnosed; many pediatricians and lactation consultants are unaware of them and don’t check for them.  It used to be commonplace to check all newborns for ties, but in the 1950’s when infant formula became touted as the best nutrition for baby breastfeeding rates dropped and checking for ties became unnecessary since they rarely affect an infant’s ability to obtain milk from a bottle.  But now that breastfeeding is in favor again, we need to bring back routine checks for ties when babies are born.  I don’t know a true statistic for how common ties are, but I can tell you this.  From checking in to leaving Dr. Ghaheri’s office we were probably there about an hour, and in that time we saw 3 other infants there for the same procedure.  Seems that this is pretty common!

Having breastfeeding issues?  Here are the signs to look for that may indicate a tongue-tied baby.  You and your baby may be experiencing all of these symptoms or just a few.

Mother’s Symptoms

  • Painful or highly uncomfortable breastfeeding
  • Flattened/compressed/clamped/creased nipple after nursing that may resemble the shape of a new lipstick
  • Cracks/sores
  • Plugged ducts-baby is unable to fully drain milk from the breasts
  • Mastitis
  • Decreased milk supply-baby is unable to stimulate breast sufficiently to maintain milk supply

Baby’s Symptoms

  • Difficult latching or maintaining latch
  • Fussy at the breast
  • Generally fussy, often misdiagnosed as colic or reflux
  • Long nursing times
  • Baby is constantly hungry
  • Poor sleep due to always waking up hungry
  • Gumming, chewing or sucking just on the nipple during nursing
  • Makes a clicking noise while nursing
  • Choking on milk or comes off breast to gasp for air
  • Unable to hold a pacifier
  • Gassy-baby will often take in more air when there is repeated attempts to latch
  • Blister on upper lip
  • White/blanched coloring of the lips
  • Poor weight gain

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and suspect a tongue and/or lip-tie, here is what to look for from Dr. Lawrence Kotlow:

The #1 mistake doctors and lactation consultants make when checking for a tongue-tie is incorrect positioning of the baby during the exam.  (The first ENT I visited did not examine my daughter in the proper position.)

how-to-diagnose-tongue-tie-6

 

Once baby is in proper position, here is what to look for:

tongue tie diagnosis

 

You can check for a lip-tie with baby facing you.

lip tie diagnosis

 

Help spread the word about infant tongue and lip-ties!  Share this with the pregnant mamas and new parents in your life.  You just may spare a mama a lot of heartache (and other aches!) that wants to breastfeed her baby.

Think your baby may have a tongue-tie and/or lip-tie that is causing breastfeeding issues and want to have it evaluated/treated?  Click here to read my follow-up post where I provide a link to a list of doctors throughout the US, Canada and several other countries! I also discuss the possible cause of tongue and lip-ties.

 

 

The Mechanics of Eating for Straight Teeth: Part II

1 May

In my last post, I discussed the mechanics of breastfeeding and how the oral actions that take place when a baby breastfeeds stimulate proper growth and development of the palate, jaw and oral musculature giving baby a better chance at straight teeth in the future.  Now we’ll move on to the introduction of solid foods for the infant and eating into the toddler years.

Current recommendations suggest waiting until your baby is at least 6 months old before adding solid foods, but you may even wait until 7-8 months old if your baby is not yet showing much interest in solid food.  If you’re a parent, what first foods were you told to begin feeding your infant?  You probably heard the most common recommendation: rice cereal.  Unfortunately, rice cereal is pretty devoid of nutrition and provides no oral stimulation to eat.  (But wait, rice cereal is fortified with iron that my baby needs! I’ll address this later…)  After that, you were likely told to offer your baby all kinds of mashed and pureed foods like sweet potatoes, squash, bananas and avocado, or that you could purchase jarred baby foods.  Moving into the toddler years, I see a lot of toddlers filling up on Cheerios or other cereals, graham crackers, Goldfish crackers, toddler cookies and sometimes yogurt, ya know…”kid food”.  Unfortunately again, after the age of two, most parents have been told to move to low-fat or non-fat dairy products, so parents buy convenient yogurt cups for their kids, often in fruity flavors or with fruit-on-the-bottom (which should really be called fruit-syrup-on-the-bottom).  As I discussed in this post, low-fat/non-fat dairy is higher in sugar.  Add that to all those cereals and crackers toddlers are eating, (carbohydrates, which are converted to sugar in the body when eaten), and it’s easy to see that our toddlers are running on sugar!  Toddlers are lacking the nutrients they need for proper growth and all this sugar is putting them on the insulin roller coaster all day long.  And what happens when we are carbohydrate/sugar dependent and our insulin crashes?  We get hungry and cranky!  Hmmm…could this be the source of some of those toddler tantrums and meltdowns???

So, what and how should we be feeding our infants and toddlers?  First off, opt for REAL FOOD whenever you can.  Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time believing that I will need to feed my infant rice cereal…a product that comes in a box, was made in a factory and has synthetic vitamins and minerals that were made in a lab added to it to make it “nutritious”.  I agree that sweet potatoes, squashes, bananas and avocadoes are great options for infants getting started on solid foods.  Feel free to add a little pastured butter or coconut oil to those mashed sweet potatoes and squashes to up the nutrient level and absorption of those nutrients.  The added fat will also fill up baby more.  As for bananas, try giving your baby half the banana to hold and eat rather than mashing.  Many babies at 6 months of age, or definitely by 7-8 months of age, can hold food and feed themselves, so let them.  Let baby gnaw on the banana.  This gnawing action, along with the action of them opening wide to put the banana in their mouth, will stimulate those oral muscles for proper growth and development.  You can do the same with avocado.  Many parents worry about choking risk doing this, but a baby will gnaw at a banana or chunk of avocado and actually be mashing it up themselves; they run a greater risk of choking with small, cut-up pieces of food that they could inhale and get lodged in their esophagus.  Of course, parental supervision is advised at all times when your baby is eating.

But what about iron?  Great choices to include in baby’s first foods that are iron-rich are egg yolks and liver.  For a long time, parents have been advised to avoid feeding babies eggs until after age 1 to prevent allergies, however, it is typically the egg white that is the allergenic part of the egg.  The solution?  Hard boil eggs, remove the white and just give baby the yolk.  Of course, monitor your baby for any adverse reactions, just like you would with any new food you introduce, and if baby has a reaction, wait a couple months and try the food again to see if baby still has a reaction.  Liver is another great choice for babies.  The best way to serve it to infants just starting out on solid foods is to make liver pate.  Scoop some on a plate or right onto the tray of their high chair and let them pick up bits of it and feed themselves.  As they get a couple months older, they can eat cooked liver, fish such as halibut and salmon which cook up very soft and easy for baby to chew and “gum”.  Keep adding new foods for baby to try as their palates develop and as they get more teeth.

As for toddlers, this will be a natural progression if you have allowed your baby to explore different foods and feed himself/herself rather than spoon-feeding your baby all those mashed and pureed foods.  Often, we think we need to prepare everything for our infants and toddlers, but to ensure they are getting enough oral-mechanical stimulation for proper growth and development, we can really do less.  For example, let’s take an apple, which could be served in several different ways:

solid foods

Whole apple

 

solid foods

Cut apple pieces

 

solid foods

Applesauce

Most parents feed their toddlers and young children cut-up pieces of apple or applesauce, but to best stimulate proper oral growth, don’t be afraid to give your toddler the whole apple…or a pear, cucumber, tomato, etc.  In fact, many kids prefer this over cut-up food.  This is how children did it for thousands of years before there were knives, blenders, food processors, etc.  Hmmm…braces and Invisalign didn’t exist back then either…

solid foods

For more on this topic from my “go-to” biomechanist, Katy Bowman, head over to her blog for a quick read on how and why she is doing this with her kiddos!

Here are a couple other great resources too:

The Right Way to Feed Babies – The Healthy Home Economist

Super Nutrition for Babies: The Right Way to Feed Your Baby for Optimal Health

And if you’re new to my blog and haven’t read how this all starts, check out the articles below!

Can What You Eat Now Keep Your Future Kids Out of Braces: Part I

Can What You Eat Now Keep Your Future Kids Out of Braces: Part II

 

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Paleo Principles for Optimal Oral Health and Beyond.

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Paleo Principles for Optimal Oral Health and Beyond.

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